Editors' pick

Shawn Colvin

Singer-Songwriters
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Editorial Review

Reflections on a broken heart
By Mike Joyce
Friday, July 20, 2012

For songwriters, nothing fuels creativity quite like a busted relationship -- that is, if the writers are still standing when the dust clears.

All Fall Down,” Shawn Colvin’s eighth studio album, isn’t the pity party its title may suggest. Colvin is still standing, all right, writing about emotional loss and despair from what is clearly firsthand experience. More than merely confessional, the best lyrics are cunning and cutting.

There’s “Anne of the Thousand Days,” a scathing narrative about a serial cheater, and “I Don’t Know You,” a ballad that toggles between confusion and recrimination. “Change Is on the Way,” written with Patty Griffin, ultimately offers a somewhat more optimistic view of heartache: “And I guess even the sun will burn itself out one day.” B.W. Stevenson’s “On My Own,” serves Colvin particularly well and helps compensate for the occasional miscues. In fact, Colvin allows Stevenson the last word: “If you find your true love once again / Please don’t do the same damn thing to them.”

Even listeners with little tolerance for this sort of thing are likely to appreciate the album’s musical merits. Producer Buddy Miller has crafted a series of lean-yet-atmospheric settings that complement Colvin’s increasingly expressive voice. Bassist Victor Krauss, guitarist Bill Frisell, fiddler Stuart Duncan and drummer Brian Blade play prominent roles, and the vocal harmonies provided by Griffin, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Jakob Dylan add yet another soulful touch.